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Flower may seem like an odd-ball on the PlayStation 3, but actually it's as true to Sony's PS3 system as Wipeout was on the PS1.
Flower is a PlayStation 3 exclusive, only available to download from the PlayStation Network store. I am a big believer in the symbiotic relationship between game and gaming system. Some games are so closely associated with a machine that the mere mention of one cannot help but bring to mind the other.
Take, for example, Tetris; for better or worse, forever to be fused in the hearts and minds of gamers with Nintendo's old grey Game Boy. And despite having been published on various platforms since, to play Tetris on anything other than a Game Boy feels like some kind of gaming crime.
Flower is PlayStation 3's Tetris: a harmonious union of game and system. Much of this union comes from the PlayStation 3's Sixaxis controller. Bearing a conceptual similarity to the Wii remote, the Sixaxis is a unique and underused control method that makes the experience of playing Flower intuitive and singularly incomparable to other PS3 games.
Flower is set in a landscape of rolling hills where you control wind, and are granted one flower petal. This is yours to blow around in any direction over rolling fields of swaying grass.
This isn't a juggling act: the petal flits playfully in the centre of view, uncomplicated and captivate; The Sixaxis feeds your tilts and turns into the world without having to press a single button. In fact all of the twelve face buttons that make up the controller do the same thing in Flower; they make the wind blow.
And, so, the central game mechanic is in place; the power of the wind, and a flower petal to bend to your every tempestuous whim. But this is a grey world to start with; the only hints of life are droplets of light like tiny diamonds strewn across a grey blanket.
Flower is PlayStation 3's Tetris.
In the absence of anything more obvious thing to do, you blow your pink petal towards one of these pin-pricks of light with a flick of the wrist and a gentle squeeze of the trigger. The silence of solitude is broken, your petal collides gently with the light and a single piano note rings. The point of light becomes a blooming flower and your, previously solitary, petal receives an identical companion.
You bring the other flower to life. This is your first step on your musical journey through the fields brining each glimmering bud into bloom until you are guiding a kaleidoscopic kite-tail of petals through the air.
Throughout most of Flower's six levels there is no danger, no time limit, and it's not until the last level, building up to a finale that really has to be experienced to be believed, that the game fully unveils its sense of drama.
The feeling of freedom that simply blowing petals in the wind presents is matched by the wireless motion controls. I know this is not exclusive to the PlayStation 3, but clasping the Six Axis with two hands and playing Flower creates a unique unity. Unhindered by snagging wires or buttons you are free to lose yourself in this atypical adventure of landscape painting made possible by the processing power of Sony's beefy console.
Flower is not without faults. It is short, easily cleared in one rainy afternoon. Later levels also jar. The flow is grindingly broken by a sequence that asks a little too much of the occasionally imprecise Sixaxis. You'll know it when you hit it, and though it is neither a lengthy gauntlet or too tricky, it's a stain that leaves a mark after play, and the one incursion that always makes me think twice about replaying.
Of all the games I have played, and there have been many, it is rare (maybe once or twice per console generation) that a game comes along to suit its host machine as well as this.
Flower took me to memories of a nightclub in 1996.
Flower rekindled memories of a nightclub in 1996. Early morning and the music took a chilled out turn as sweaty clubbers filtered into the cool September evening. I remained, getting my money's worth from an extortionately priced bottle of water. As the club became more devoid of shape-throwing dancers I noticed a TV on a pedestal with two grey controllers jutting out as though wanting to shake my hand.
It was a Sony PlayStation pod. That night I played Wipeout until the club staff were upturning chairs onto tables and flicking on fluorescent lights. That was my first taste of chilled out gaming and, to me it is what the PlayStation brand has always represented.
Flower continues that tradition. It's this and not the aliens, gangsters and firepower that epitomises the PS3 for me.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
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